Legionnaire’s Disease, Ruse, and Christian Oppression at Rock Island and Old Plantation — two of Houston’s earliest punk venues — in April and September 1979. This tape is from Dale Brooks (pictured) of Houston’s Video Boyz.
HYMNAL, a punk and hardcore fanzine originally headquartered in Houston, debuted in December 1981. The first three issues were based on the Houston scene, after which the publication relocated to Austin. Its fourth and final issue was published in 1982, with featured coverage of Houston and Austin bands.
The full run, Nos. 1-4, can be accessed in the private archives of Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn.
(Images courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
“Obviously, the scene we come from is gone. But we still believe in the whole thing…All the bands in L.A. that started out three years ago are still doing what they believe in and they don’t do it for money.” — Exene (interview with WILD DOG zine)
Henry Wild Dog sat down with members from L.A. band X in 1981, four years after its debut 45, Adult Books, was recorded.
In this exclusive interview, Exene Cervenka (vocalist) — with a copy of WILD DOG #4 in hand — and John Doe (bassist) discuss an appearance in the Decline of Western Civilization, Mexican punk bands in L.A. and Houston, feeling “creepy” about being on the road, the death of The Germs‘ Darby Crash and the band’s unwavering resolve to stick it out with an indie label.
(Official galley courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
“The man who killed Joe Torres / Never went to jail / The sniper who picked off Carl Hampton / Never paid any bail / The killers of Milton Glover / They might be pulling you over tonight / And if you happen to get shot / Well I guess you started the fight.” — The Badge Means You Suck, AK-47 (1980)
“The Badge Means You Suck” is arguably one of the best protest punk songs against police brutality, and it originated in Houston.
AK-47 were an integral part of the musico-political affront taking place during Houston’s first wave. Formed the same year it debuted at the Rock Against Racism show at Paradise Island in 1979, the band released its polemic debut single The Badge Means You Suck/Kiss My Machine in 1980, which condemned the Houston Police Department (HPD) as racist and trigger-happy in spite of an antithetical department slogan at the time — The Badge Means You Care.
The Badge holds its own among other punk protest anthems such as Black Flag’s “Police Story” and “Hate the Police?” by Austin’s The Dicks. While AK-47 is considered a seminal punk band in late ’70s Houston, a hard driving sound influenced by Hawkwind and the previous era’s prog rock, long hair, and visual art showed some continuity between first wave punk and the psychedelic movement that preceded it. The iconic cover art by Jimmy Bryan is representative of this earlier generation.
The single’s front sleeve lists nine victims slain by HPD around the time, memorializing their names so they would not be lost to time. In the image’s background police wear full riot gear, and the HPD crest is displayed. The flipside cover for “Kiss my Machine” is a collage, which Jimmy coined “Machine Mandala.”
“I was the only hippie in the band,” he told Wild Dog Archives. “The point with my artwork was to inject the same imagery that fed much of the protest during the Sixties.” At several AK-47 performances, Jimmy — the band’s “art director” — would appear on stage wearing his own gas mask. Swaying to the rhythm, he controlled a “light show” of sorts that featured black and white transparencies (which he developed) displaying similar stark images.
“I wanted punks to understand that this movement, this music, was connected to the ’50s/’60s counterculture. Punk was not dissimilar; it was a continuum,” he said.
Whether you consider them hippies or punks, AK-47 had an impact on the early Houston punk scene, and “The Badge Means You Suck” lives on in protest of police brutality.
(Music written by Stew Cannon and lyrics written by Tim “Phlegm,” a journalist covering the Houston crime beat.)
(Photo by Chan Ramos; courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
Two DEAR HENRY WILD DOG letters from the Helen Wheels Band reference a Ritz riot ignited by the John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) outfit Public Image Ltd., Texas Punk, Wild Dog, and a mention of Houston’s Island rock club (see bio below from “25 Legendary Houston Music Venues”).
Known variously as Rock Island, Paradise Island and just plain the Island, this former Mexican restaurant on Main Street was Ground Zero for Houston’s punk rock scene between 1978 and 1983. In addition to providing a stage for local upstarts such as The Hates, Mydolls, Really Red and the Judy’s, the Island also hosted legends from the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and X to like-minded Texas groups Butthole Surfers, Big Boys and MDC. The atmosphere was rank and the threat of violence and police harassment lingered over many gigs, but the DIY scenester spirit of the place made it fertile ground for no-rules rock experimentalism. — Houston Press
March 8, 1981
I was real glad to get your letter, cause although I get fan mail from all over the USA & some Europe, I’ve NEVER gotten a letter from Texas, & I know Texas is BIG & there must be lotsa real rock n roll & not just boogie music. I think Wild Dog #? (that you sent me) is a great fanzine though I was not familiar with some of the bands (texas?). Was proud to see me on P. 20! ….
If you ever get to NY (or whenever we make it to Texas) I’d like you to be our guest at a show. We hope to have some T-shirt/buttons & most of all a record deal soon, but for the time being we could send you a couple of ravaged guitar picks if you want some HWB memorabilia….
Yours in Rock n Roll,
June 1, 1981
Hope things are going well for you in Houston & I thought I’d drop you a few lines to let you know how things are going with us. First off, we were called in especially to headline The “Ritz” on Sat. May 16 after the riot that “Public Image Ltd.” was responsable [sic] for the previous night. It seems that “P.I.L.” refused to come out from behind The Ritz’s video screen and then shouted obscenities at the crowd which caused a bottle & chair throwing melee.
No announcement was made about “P.I.L.’s” cancellation for the 2nd night & all of The Ritz’s stage hands warned us that we were in for the same, however, we got 2 encores at the end of the night! They called us at 5:00 p.m. to do the show that night and it was amazing how quickly we got it together.
I’m writing you from the Secret Sound in N.Y. where we’re recording our new 12″ 6 song E.P. It is being produced by “Blue Oyster Cult’s” Joe Bouchard and engineered by Corky Stasiak who worked with Lou Reed and The Clash so you know it will be “state of the art” work…
Thanks for your info on Texas Radio. I unfortunately misplaced the list, so if you were to be so kind, when next you write, please send out the list again. Also, I’d love to get some info on stores in your area where we could sell the record for CASH UP FRONT ONLY. We will be selling it via mail order, however we are looking for stores that we can sell the record for upfront money. When it comes out, we’ll of course send you a copy for review and place an ad in “Wild Dog” as well as sending a copy to Phil Hix & Richard at the “Rock Island” in Houston…
Name Unknown [Road Manager for HWB]
P.S. by Helen Wheels
Hi, Henry — You won’t believe this record — It’s gonna be a world-wide hit.
Hi Henry! Long time no hear — How you doin? How’s Wild Dog? Did you receive the record we sent you? Thought you might enjoy this pic from Halloween — We may be going to Japan in August! “Postmodern Living” is currently receiving airplay in 38 states!
Best Always, Helen
(Image courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
October 26, 1981
Dear Henry Wild Dog —
Nice to hear from you & glad of your continuing interest in the band — Here’s a couple flyers on some of our upcoming gigs. Yes the record has been quite delayed in release, but the package is STUPENDOUS & unique (& almost complete). Also guitarist Jack Rigg is no longer with the band & has been replaced for the time being w/ Scott “Top Ten” Kempner — formally of The Dictators. (He was my guitarist for about 1 1/2 yrs w/ an earlier HWB [Helen Wheels Band]). Loved the irreverent [sic] ISSUE. Hope Disc will be out in a couple weeks. You will be receiving a complimentary review copy. Thanks again for your interest. Too bad you can’t attend any of these Halloween shows — I’ll be dressed as a vampire/devil!
(Images courtesy of Wild Dog Archives.)
Houston’s Henry Wild Dog was a prolific letter writer. And by prolific, we mean he has a mind bending collection of correspondence with more than a few punk icons from the early underground music scene nationwide. Out of a stack of ZIGZAG magazines, we culled out a manilla package with Henry Wild Dog’s scrawl titled, “The Helen Wheels Band Promotional Materials,” including flyers, letters from Helen to WILD DOG zine, Houston’s own first wave punk rock fanzine, an original WILD DOG galley proof featuring the band, and this R. Crumb print dated 1976 and autographed by Helen Wheels in 1981.
Our favorite underground cartoonist of the day, R. Crumb was a fan and friend of the fierce Helen Wheels (Robbins), heralded as one of the “original punks” and “one of the best unrecorded acts in rock ‘n roll” during the formative years of the first wave. According to her record label’s promo flyer for “Postmodern Living,” the band’s premier EP, Helen was a performing staple on the NYC punk rock scene since 1977 and well known before that for her songwriting with Blue Oyster Cult.
Even today, examples of Helen’s early work and music are scarce. We did come across a video of Helen from a NYC punk rock archival project courtesy of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong, whose punk-era concert footage is being digitized at NYU.
What follows are some reviews from the height of her career courtesy of the archives:
“Heavy is Helen Wheels, who you probably don’t know (but you will). The only way you might forget Helen Wheels would be if someone gave you a frontal lobotomy. Of course that someone could very well be Helen herself. In other words, Helen is unforgettable.” — Creem
“A total original with brains, boas, tattoos, and a long history of outlaw lovers.” — Damage
“Wheels looks like a punk interpretation of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle…Her songs have real flair.” — Newsday
“A cross between Johnny Rotten and Blondie.” — Cashbox
“That woman is a ball-bearing bitch strutting around and wielding an array of formidable looking daggers…offstage Helen Wheels is a charming young lady who’s highly intelligent and very articulate when it comes to her music, which she views as an art form.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“Helen makes love to one of her daggers as she sings — The New Wave of Sex.” — Penthouse
“Gutteral, erotic, soft-textured hard rock with depth. You’ll get a rush off her will.” — Wild Dog
And from Crumb…
“Helen Wheels has the toughest ass in show business, if not in all America.” — R. Crumb, cartoonist in Punk
V. Vale’s inaugural issue of San Francisco punk zine, SEARCH & DESTROY, originally funded by beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (No. 1, 1977) takes its moniker from a Stooges song and features a “Basic Iggy Pop Bio”:
“Iggy Pop’s legend is one of the crucial cornerstones of rock & roll lore. It began when his Ann Arbor band, The Stooges, debuted on Halloween, 1967, chopping flower power down at the root.”
The full run, Nos. 1-11, can be accessed in the private archives of Henry “Wild Dog” Weissborn.